I keep saying this and no one believes me, but I'm going to say it again.
There are no dominant teams in the 2010 National League. In fact, the NL is pretty much a mess. The Cardinals, who many here said were going to "run away" with the NL Central, have lost six of their last nine -- three of those to the Astros, who have the worst record in the league.
And the Cubs, in Philadelphia to play the supposedly dominant Phillies, who came into last night's game with the best record in the NL, looked like the dominant ones in defeating the Phillies 4-1, playing perhaps their most solid game all season.
Jamie Moyer, within five home runs allowed of breaking the career record for such things, didn't give up any to the Cubs last night. Didn't matter, as the Cubs offense did a nice job of manufacturing four runs off only six hits (five singles and a double) and three walks. The key hit of the game was Xavier Nady's two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning that gave the Cubs a little breathing room after they were clinging to a 1-0, then 2-0 lead early.
Tom Gorzelanny threw an outstanding game and had to leave only due the line drive by Carlos Ruiz off his pitching hand. Props to Gorz for having the presence of mind to finish the play by throwing Ruiz out -- nice snag by Derrek Lee, too.
Four in a row and five out of seven. That's a nice little run. Keep it going today.
The other topic on everyone's mind this morning, I suppose, is the news -- first reported on last night's pregame show, and then on CSN Chicago's website, that the Cubs were about to sign Bob Howry, who was recently released by the Diamondbacks.
Some have claimed this is all a Lou Piniella move, others say it's on Jim Hendry, still a third group says it's both. One of the keys to this move, presuming it's made official (the original rumor said he'd join the team in Texas tomorrow), is in that link:
"If it happens, it would give us some experience in our bullpen from the right side," manager Lou Piniella said after Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. "I’m not saying anything’s going to happen. I’m saying when we had him before he was a rock in the clubhouse. He was great with the younger pitchers."
From what I understand and have heard, what Lou said is correct. Howry was a clubhouse leader for the 2007 and 2008 teams that made the postseason. In his three years as a Cub, he had two good seasons and one really bad one -- 2008, the year he helped make the Wrigley ballhawks happy by allowing 13 home runs. He signed with the Giants last year and had another pretty good season, a year quite comparable to his 2006 and 2007 seasons with the Cubs, or the years he had in 2004 and 2005 with the Indians.
There is no sugarcoating this: Howry has been awful this year with the Diamondbacks, and his release came after two particularly bad outings in which he allowed a combined seven earned runs in 1.2 innings, with three walks and no strikeouts. Yes, that's bad. Really, REALLY bad.
There have been reports that Howry's velocity has been down this year and if that's true, if he can get back to the velocity he had last year, this might be a useful signing. The difference between this signing and signing someone like Kiko Calero or Juan Cruz is that there were clearly injury issues with both of those players. Howry is, presumably, healthy.
I'm not going to say there's no downside to this signing, because clearly, there is if he keeps pitching like that. And I have been an advocate of giving the guys at Iowa a chance (though not specifically Jeff Stevens, who appears to be a guy who can dominate Triple-A but not be very effective in the major leagues).
Let's see how this plays out. It could be a Jim Edmonds type of signing. Or it could be a Ryan Freel type of signing, in which case he can be released again.
The Cubs leave Philadelphia quickly -- today's afternoon game makes two games there in less than 24 hours, and then a departure for their first interleague series. The pregame thread will post at 10:30 am CDT.